He took a long breath and opened the door to his balcony, the brightness of the morning sun blinding him momentarily. He squinted his eyes and looked around. Dead quiet, an empty birdcage staring back at him. He could feel the metropolis moving beneath, the breeze of speeding cars never stopping to ponder on life’s deeper avenues. Always in a hurry to get somewhere, but where does one really go all the time?
He sat on his chair and let this thought consume him like it had done countless times. Nothing ever stopped out there, but still he never dared taking a closer look over that edge. He knew the whole world moved and lived outside that old apartment, but he still dared not looking it in the face. This idea that if he were ever to look over that edge, the demon of gravity would control his sense of vertigo and tip him over.
His late mother’s voice echoed too often in the darkness of his memories: “If you get too close, it will suck you right in.”
An invisible force.
Beneath your balcony.
Beneath your bed.
Right. Beneath. Your. Comfort. Zone.
Just waiting to pound on the curious wanderer who dares peek too far.
The empty birdcage stared back at him once more. The only company he had kept after his mother, and the only memory to outlive her, was that old, green parrot.
You see, that old parrot dared to get as close to the edge as far as his cage would allow him, the sights of blue skies giving him hope of abandoning it one day.
His mother used to mock him when they spent afternoons in the balcony admiring the bird. “He’s got no feathers but has more guts than you!” she would tell him. He came to admire the bird, its ability to aspire to greater heights.
But once old Mum died, her ghost lingering around every old piece of memorabilia collected throughout the years, he decided to give the bird the opportunity of having a go at freedom.
He started by opening the cage, but the bird would merely tilt its head to the side as if asking: what next?
He then had a go at holding the bird outside the cage, in an attempt to have him fly away into the endless blue, but still, the bird did not flinch. He realized if this bird was to ever fly away, he too would have to get close to the edge. It took him several weeks to even get close, his mother’s overprotective advice haunting him every instant he dared peeking over.
Until one autumn day, when the bird’s food rations were about to run out, he set himself to approach the handrail that hung under his navel. He held the bird in his right palm and had one last look at his frail green companion. He closed his eyes, got as close as his small soul would dare, and held his hand out the balcony. He could feel the bird edge ever closer to the tip of his fingers, almost ready to fly. His heart started beating faster. His palm where the bird rested started sweating. Both hearts were now galloping and he decided to open his eyes.
When he did, the bird was fluttering its wings to prepare for departure. He made the mistake of looking over the edge when observing the bird and time came to a halt.
A cold breeze brought a shiver down his neck.
When he looked to the side, his mother looked at him disapprovingly.
“Put that bird back in its cage right now.”
The blood iced in his veins and the bird sensed this, lunging for it. When it did, so did the man trying to grab the bird one last time.
But it was too late.
Mother’s unexpected visit had taken him by surprise, and so did the height of the handrail that protected him from beneath. He fell forwards, and for a second, he admired the green wings of the parrot finally ascending towards the clouds. He was now in the hands of gravity, propelled downwards into the jungle of the metropolis. He admired the vastness of it all, the advancements of mankind outside his apartment, views that flew past him at frenetic speeds.
Towards the end, he could see the cold asphalt waiting to bring him home. And so he did.
He woke up in his bed and immediately looked under it. Nothing but dust. He got up and opened the door to his balcony, the warmth of a summer night greeting him from a slumber.
The empty birdcage stared back at him. He decided to open it, in case the parrot came back. A smile filled his existence as he dared closer to the edge and admired the world beneath.